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JUDE THE OBSCURE BY THOMAS HARDY - FREE BOOKNOTES
Jude visits Sue at the school at Shaston. He waits in the empty schoolroom and plays the hymn that has so enchanted him. Sue comes in silently. She also plays it for him, and they are both so moved by its beauty that Jude comments that they are very much alike. They talk about a number of subjects, and Sue mentions her former friend, the university student, until Jude, stung by jealousy, accuses her of being "a flirt." She is upset and tries to defend herself and her right to love. She talks of the conflicts she experiences and the difficulty of fitting into the conventional role that society reserves for women. They part and Sue invites him to visit her a week later. Jude wanders about town and nears Sue's house. Through the window he sees her take a photograph out of her workbox, gaze at it and hold it close to her heart. Although he is not sure, Jude hopes it is his own, and he knows he will see her again soon.
Sue as usual fluctuates in her behavior towards Jude. For the first time, he gets a bit impatient with her attitude of playing with his feelings. Sue becomes Hardy's mouthpiece, criticizing marriage as a social institution. The reader again realizes Sue's marriage is in trouble when she declares that some women find they cannot give their love "continuously to the chamber-officer appointed by the bishop's license to receive it." The reader gets a glimpse of Sue as the "new woman" whose love of freedom makes it impossible to fit into the "social moulds of civilization."
With some insight, she speaks of Jude as a "Joseph, the dreamer of dreams," a "tragic Don Quixote" and "St. Stephen." (Don Quixote, from the novel of the same name, chased after a world which no longer existed. St. Stephen was among the first Christian martrys.) Sue's words are prophetic, for this is the tragic role that love for her will condemn Jude to play.
The next day, Sue, having changed her mind as usual, writes Jude a note saying he must not come to Shaston. Jude writes back agreeing not to meet her. But on Easter Monday he gets a message from Mrs. Edlin saying that his aunt's health is sinking. Jude rushes to Marygreen to find Aunt Drusilla already dead. He informs Sue, who arrives for the funeral. After the funeral, Sue and Jude have a discussion about Aunt Drusilla's disapproval of marriage for the Fawleys. Sue confesses to an intense physical aversion to Phillotson, although she respects and likes him as a friend. Jude senses her unhappiness and laments the fact that he did not try to prevent her hasty marriage. Sue will not let Jude comfort her and goes off to Widow Edlin's cottage for the night. Later that night, Jude hears the cry of trapped rabbit, and, unable to bear it, he goes out and relieves it of further pain by putting it to death. He finds Sue awake at her window, and she breaks down and pours out all her suffering to him. She finally admits her mistake in not considering the full implications of marriage.
Sue's predicament inspires pity and sympathy, especially now that she realizes her rashness in having entered into such a marriage. Interestingly, she is quite fair to Phillotson. "He is considerate to me in everything," she admits. But she is finally quite honest with Jude, "though I like Mr. Phillotson as a friend--I don't like him--it is a torture to me to live with him as a husband." Jude is appalled and can hardly bear to see her suffering like this.
Hardy uses the incidence of the trapped rabbit to emphasize the growing bond between Jude and Sue; both are extremely sensitive and cannot bear to hear the rabbit's cry of pain. The reader recalls Jude as a little boy, walking on tiptoe to avoid crushing the earthworms. But Hardy also employs this event as symbolic of Sue's situation (the marriage in which she is trapped). Sue's agony appears to be as great as that of the rabbit struggling to break free: "I daresay it happens to a lot of women--only they submit and I kick..." Earlier in the book (Part I, Chapter 9), Hardy describes Jude too as trapped in a marriage; he is described as being "caught in a gin which would cripple him."
The next day Sue is to return to Shaston, and they set out for the railroad station. Before they part, Jude and Sue embrace and kiss. Jude returns to Marygreen and realizes that he is facing a conflict: he cannot continue to be attached to Sue and still hope to be ordained a clergyman. He admits with painful honesty that he is not fit to hold any position in the church. That evening he burns all his books of theological works and feels relieved.
Sue returns to Shaston desperately worried and miserable. That night she sleeps in a stuffy closet in order not to share the same bedroom with Phillotson. The following morning she asks Phillotson if she can live separately from him. Phillotson is astonished and does not understand her request. He wonders why she married him at all. Sue admits that it was her fault in not breaking off the engagement. Further, she confesses that she had agreed to marry him only because she was afraid of the scandal at the training college. She begs him to release her from the bond. Phillotson is horrified and accuses her of having been in love with Jude all this time. During the day Phillotson and Sue correspond by exchanging notes while teaching in their different classrooms. Phillotson finally consents to let Sue live separately in his own house, but not with Jude, as she had wanted.
In Hardy's words "the kiss was the turning point in Jude's career." Jude abandons his studies because he realizes that as long as he continues his relationship with Sue, it is "glaringly inconsistent" to pursue his goal of a priestly career. He recalls that his first goal-- toward an academic career--was checked by a woman (Arabella). Similarly, his second aspiration has also been checked by a woman (Sue). He cannot live with the thought of being an impostor. The act of burning his books symbolizes the end of his religious aspirations. It also gives him some relief: "The sense of being no longer a hypocrite to himself . . . he might go on believing as before but he professed nothing." From now on his behavior to Sue will be quite consistent: "In his passion for Sue he could now stand as an ordinary sinner and not as a whited sepulchre."
Sue has her own emotional revelations. The reader is given a clear indication that she is not really cut out for marriage: "(She is) quite unfitted by temperament and instinct to fulfill the conditions of the matrimonial relation with Phillotson, possibly with scarce any man." But for her too this is a turning point. By asking for a separation, she shows she is finally ready to give up on a marriage that should never have taken place. Her arguments are almost like a lecture, with quotations from John Stuart Mill, until Phillotson is driven to protest.
Phillotson remarks, "What must a woman's aversion be when it is stronger than her fear of spiders," when he sees the closet where Sue has spent the night rather than share his bedroom. His confusion and anguish at Sue's behavior will force him to see that the marriage cannot continue.